Though rightly regarded as one of the pioneers of Heavy Metal — both in terms of musical style and in terms of being colossal nerds about it — their full repertoire of songs is surprisingly diverse in light of their reputation as, well, Led Zeppelin.
Led Zeppelin’s music was rooted in the blues. The influence of American blues artists such as Muddy Waters and Skip James was particularly apparent on their first two albums, as was the distinct country blues style of Howlin’ Wolf … The band were also strongly influenced by the music of the British, Celtic, and American folk revivals … The band also drew on a wide variety of genres, including world music, and elements of early rock and roll, jazz, country, funk, soul, and reggae …Full article here.
The material on the first two albums was largely constructed out of extended jams of blues standards and folk songs. This method led to the mixing of musical and lyrical elements of different songs and versions, as well as improvised passages, to create new material, but would lead to later accusations of plagiarism and legal disputes over copyright.
Now, based on the above, it’s clear that Zeppelin were no strangers to folk music. But Battle of Evermore isn’t a folk song in the same way something like When the Levee Breaks or Gallows Pole, or even Bron-Y-Aur (…it’s Welsh).
Featuring John Paul Jones on said mandolin — in addition to being the bassist and keyboardist, he was also Zeppelin’s resident Obscure Instrument Guy and guest vocalist Sandy Denny providing the only female vocals to appear on a Zeppelin song, The Battle of Evermore owes a clear debt to the works of J.R.R. Tolkien:
“The pain of war cannot exceed
The woe of aftermath
The drums will shake the castle wall
The Ringwraiths ride in black, ride on.”
Personally, I think it’s less “Lord of the Rings set to music” that a lot of people take it for and beyond the few explicit references like the Ringwraiths, I’m pretty sure they’re just going for generally evocative and Fantastical imagery and lyrics.
For example, I think the Queen of Light being Galadriel is tenuous at best, and the Prince of Peace embracing the gloom and walking the night alone being Aragorn taking the Paths of the Dead just doesn’t hold up — not least of all because Aragorn had an entire army with him.
It makes a bit more sense if it’s Frodo. But, even then, I think it’s just a vague allusion rather than a direct reference.
Also, Zeppelin is clearly mixing their metaphors here. The only explicit reference to a specific Fantasy story other than the Ringwraiths is to Avalon. So, the song is clearly less “Lord of the Rings set to music” and other “Generic Fantasy War set to music.”
But, either way, it’s a good song:
One final reminder to catch up on Chapter 1 of Fryte’s Gold before Chapter 2 goes live tomorrow:
Also, as of last night, I’ve been involved in Lord of the Rings giveaway through Fiction-Atlas — I know; timely, isn’t it?
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